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The 15-Minute Neighborhood Analysis
Holland’s 2017 Comprehensive Plan states:
Holland is home to a number of distinct neighborhoods, each with their own unique character. Holland citizens value their neighborhoods and the social connections within them. Over the course of the past two decades, the City has developed neighborhood-specific plans that address distinct neighborhood issues. Planning efforts for Holland’s neighborhoods strive to provide and preserve unique, vibrant, walkable, and active places that enhance the quality of life for City residents. (p. 28)
Moreover, two of the principal goals included in the Comprehensive Plan state the following:
The City of Holland’s neighborhoods will be aesthetically pleasing, tree-lined, walkable, and mixed-use with recognizable development patterns. (p. 89)
The City of Holland will foster a safe and healthy community for all residents. (p. 158)
The 15-Minute Neighborhood Analysis is a tool that helps the community understand a large part of what it means to be a livable, walkable, sustainable, connected, and healthy city. The tool helps to identify areas suitable for attention and improvement, and by doing so helps the City move forward in the direction of achieving this established vision and associated goals.
Below is a map demonstrating the current state of Holland’s walkability based on the layering of multiple scoring criteria. Overall walkability depends on multiple factors, each related to two key characteristics: the presence of destinations – places that meet certain commercial, educational, recreational or transportation criteria, and accessibility – the ability of people to conveniently get to such destinations. The map overlays scores derived from eight different criteria, namely:
- proximity to full-service grocery stores,
- proximity to convenience stores and drug stores or pharmacies,
- the presence and clustering of businesses and related entities that people are likely to visit with regular frequency, such as coffee shops, restaurants, gyms, daycare centers, bookstores, the library, post office, etc.,
- the presence of sidewalks and walking trails,
- proximity to parks or green space,
- the presence of schools and related institutions,
- the presence of intersections that provide safe crossing opportunities, and
- the presence of public transit access points (transit stops).
The map below represents the overlay of each of those eight criteria into a composite score. The deeper green shows those areas of the City that provide the most walkable access to the above-listed destinations, and red represent those areas with the least walkable access. Separate maps were created demonstrating the individualized scoring for each of the eight inputs. These can be found below in the section labeled “Individual Maps.”
A 15-minute neighborhood is a community where residents can walk short distances from home to destinations that meet their daily needs. These walkable communities are comprised of two important characteristics:
- Destinations – a walkable community needs places to walk to. Destinations may include places that meet commercial, educational, recreational, or transportation needs.
- Accessibility – the community needs to be able to conveniently get to those destinations.
Fifteen minutes represents how much time it takes a typical pedestrian to comfortably walk about ½ to ¾ of a mile, a reasonable distance to obtain goods or services that meet daily needs. Although the primary reference is to walkability, the same principles of creating, sustaining, and enhancing places where people have convenient access applies to people using wheelchairs and other mobility aids. Similarly, in most cases, a more walkable neighborhood is likely to be a more bikeable neighborhood.
In addition to having good destinations and good access, 15-minute neighborhoods require a third component, namely people. Walkable places have a population base of residents and employees who use the amenities and take advantage of the area’s walkability. This reciprocal relationship can be seen in Holland’s mixed use commercial neighborhoods that are highly walkable and have a population base that supports the destinations.
The ability to retain, create, and enhance 15-minute neighborhoods has benefits for users of the neighborhood and also for the community as a whole. These include:
- Health. Residents who walk or bike regularly are healthier and therefore walkable communities make it easier to live healthy lifestyles. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people living in walkable neighborhoods get about 35 to 45 more minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week and are substantially less likely to be overweight or obese than people of a similar socioeconomic status living in neighborhoods that do not provide reasonable walkability.
- Traffic. Residents with convenient access to local goods and services are less likely to drive. If they do drive, they have a shorter travel distance.
- Transit. Better access to transit equates to more transit users. Research demonstrates that people living in walkable neighborhoods and within a half mile of a transit node commute less often by single-occupant vehicle (SOV), with a higher percentage using transit, carpooling, and walking or bicycling to work.
- Demographics. 21 percent of the population aged 65 and older does not drive - and that segment of the population is projected to grow significantly. Older non-drivers need options so they remain engaged with their communities.
- Cleaner Air and Watersheds. Less traffic means cleaner air, less greenhouse gas emissions, and less pollutant runoff into watersheds.
- Social Connectivity. Pedestrian activity and local gathering places help build social cohesion and eyes on the street help people feel safer in their communities.
- Market Forces. Recent surveys indicate that a majority of Americans want to live in walkable neighborhoods served by good transit. Those numbers are significantly stronger for younger Americans and those who plan to move in the future, a strong representation of the future real estate market.
- Stronger Retail. A local customer base is good for local businesses.
Secondary economic effects, moreover, include personal economic benefits to those living in walkable neighborhoods. Walkability results in reduced overall living costs for those able to reduce or eliminate transportation costs of automobile travel. The ability to reduce a household’s needed number of vehicles from two to one, or one to none can result in savings of approximately $8,700 per year, per AAA. The ability to substantially decrease transportation costs allows for greater financial stability for low to moderate income households and would likely result in improved housing choice.
At a basic level, the 15 Minute Neighborhood analysis allows the City to measure how walkable the City is today given current land use and accessibility. From a planning perspective, the City also considers the tool as decisions are made about growth and density. Options to improve 15 minute neighborhoods include creating more destinations, creating better access, and/or concentrating anticipated growth within 15 minute neighborhoods rather than in less walkable areas.
The analysis also helps the City prioritize investments in transportation and parks. Creating new destinations can be expensive, so providing new or improved access to existing destinations is a more practical approach to expanding 15 minute neighborhoods.
A walkable neighborhood has two primary features – lots of places to walk to, and a way to get to those places on foot. For the analysis, this is mapped in term of two primary inputs:
- Destinations such as grocery stores, convenience retail, clusters of eating & drinking & other specialty retail, schools, and parks.
- Accessibility including elements such as the amount and connectivity of sidewalks, safe intersection crossings, along with the location and quality of transit.
Attributes that are based on a specific location were mapped and actual walk distances measured. This is a marked improvement over past efforts that simply used buffers (as the crow flies) and could not account for whether or not a connection exists.
Assumptions and GIS Analysis:
- Walk distances include all open public connections and are not just limited to streets with sidewalks. Streets without sidewalks count and the presence of sidewalks is scored as an input value.
- Each input area receives a score or 1, 2, or 3, with three being the optimum. Grocery score is the exception, with scoring of either 2, 3, or 4.
- Each input is only scored once. For example, if an area is close to two schools it receives a maximum of three points rather than six.
- All parks, schools, and Type 1 commercial are considered equal (strictly a quantitative rather than a qualitative measure).
- Scores are totaled to yield a geographic cumulative score for all inputs.
** The 15-Minute Neighborhood model adapted here and much of the text above is credited to staff of the City of Kirkland, Washington. Used with permission.